Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed New Zealand will need to have a certain level of Covid-19 herd immunity before border restrictions are significantly altered.
But that may still be a long way off – the Minister of Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins said some travel restrictions would likely remain in place for another 12 to 18 months.
Speaking to media this morning, Ardern said the Government was still working through its immunisation strategy, which is centred around a Covid-19 vaccine.
"Ultimately, 2021 will be the year of the vaccine," she said.
But Ardern said New Zealand's goal is to be at a certain level of immunity before the Government considers changing its border restrictions.
People would need to be able to safely go about their day-to-day lives before quarantine rules were eased, she said.
She said the question is: "What will it take us to get, through immunisation, up to that herd immunity [level]?"
Once that question had been answered, she said New Zealanders would be able to be less worried about what is happening at the border.
Hipkins said that work is underway, given the vaccines that continued to emerge, to decide how much of the population would need to be vaccinated before travel restrictions could be eased.
"It doesn't necessarily have to be 100 per cent - we may never get to 100 per cent."
But he said some form of travel restrictions would likely remain in place for the next year to 18 months.
"The sooner we can remove restrictions, the better," he told media this morning.
He added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was talking to other countries about an international system to have people certifiably vaccinated.
"We do need to know if someone has been vaccinated or not. We would want to know that as part of our overall protection measures."
He said that would likely be the subject of a lot of diplomatic discussions but part of that could be a technology solution.
The NZ Covid app could not only show whether someone had been tested and the result of that test, but could also show whether someone had been vaccinated, and by which vaccine.
By Derek Cheng and Jason Walls, NZ Herald